In An Absent Dream (The Wayward Children book 4) by Seanan McGuire (book review).

‘In An Absent Dream’ is book four in ‘The Wayward Children’ series by Seanan McGuire. Therefore I would suggest you don’t read this review or this book before reading the others in the series.

This book follows Katherine (never Kat, or Kate or Katie) Lundy who is a lover of rules and also of books. For some reason, even Katherine does not fully understand, she steps through a door she sees in the trunk of a tree. Luckily, the world she steps into is the Goblin Market which runs on very strict rules enforced by the world itself. Trust me, you do not want to get into any kind of debt in this world, the fines are quite horrifying. Everyone in this world must give fair value to each other when they do something or give something to each other. For example, one good pencil will give you a pie a day for a year. Oh and don’t forget that as with many other fairy tales names have value so do not give yours away. Luckily, Katherine is very used to thinking things through carefully and will regularly look for loopholes in the things people say so she can use those situations to her benefit. This is just the right way to think if you’re going to survive in a Goblin Market.

I liked that we got to see more about the family left behind in this book and the links that other members of the family have with the Goblin Market. However, I didn’t like the fact that we didn’t get to see everything that happened to Katherine in the Goblin Market world. We sometimes hear snippets of the adventures she and her friends got up to but I just wanted more!

Unlike with many of the other doors we’ve heard about that only open once for their child, the door to the Goblin Market opens regularly for its child until the child turns 18. At that point, the child must make the decision to either remain in the human world or become a fully fledged participant in the Goblin Market. Until they are 18, they are protected to a certain extent but after that age, if they get into trouble, they will have to pay.

I really enjoyed the concept of fair value as part of the bartering system as ‘fair’ is such a subjective term. I also liked that it wasn’t any of the people in the market that decided this but the omnipotent Goblin Market itself that made the decisions. I’ve already given one example of pencils and fair value, but there was also another example that I felt exemplified the kindness of the world. For example, if you are truly too sick to do anything in the Goblin Market to get food, etc and someone else has to care for you then the people who care for you are given what they need by other people in the market. The fair value comes in because the carer is looking after a sick person and they are in effect getting paid for doing so but only enough that they don’t have to worry. The market makes sure that everyone is looked after and no-one is taken advantage of, or is able to take advantage of anyone else. I liked this idea of a benevolent market. Don’t for one moment think that if you don’t give fair value, bad things won’t happen to you because they most certainly will.

I have to say I wasn’t altogether happy with the ending of this book but I know that this is the way it had to be. Overall, I will keep reading these books so I get to see more and more worlds and get to know the children that visit them.

Sarah Bruch

October 2018

(pub: TOR/Forge. 204 page paperback. Price: $17.99 (US). ISBN: 978-0-76539-929-8)

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